Washington/Islamabad, September 8: US President Donald Trump on Saturday said he cancelled peace talks with Afghanistan’s Taliban leaders after the insurgent group said it was behind an attack in Kabul that killed an American soldier and 11 other people.
Trump said he had planned a secret meeting with the Taliban’s “major leaders” on Sunday at a presidential compound in Camp David, Maryland. Trump said he also planned to meet with Afghanistan’s President.
But Trump said he immediately called the talks off when the insurgents said they were behind the attack.
“If they cannot agree to a ceasefire during these very important peace talks, and would even kill 12 innocent people, then they probably don’t have the power to negotiate a meaningful agreement anyway,” Trump said on Twitter.
Taliban fighters, who now control more territory than at any time since 2001, launched fresh assaults on the northern cities of Kunduz and Pul-e-Khumri over the past week and carried out two major suicide bombings in the capital Kabul.
One of the blasts, a suicide attack in Kabul on Thursday, took the life of US Army Sergeant 1st Class Elis A. Barreto Ortiz, 34, from Puerto Rico, bringing the number of American troops killed in Afghanistan this year to 16.
A spike in attacks by Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan has been “particularly unhelpful” to peace efforts there, a senior US military commander said on Saturday as he visited neighbouring Pakistan, where many Taliban militants are based.
US Marine General Kenneth McKenzie, who oversees American troops in the region, declined to comment on the diplomatic negotiations themselves.
Earlier this week, US and Taliban negotiators struck a draft peace deal which could lead to a drawdown in US troops from America’s longest war. But a wave of Taliban violence has cast a long shadow over the deal.
“It is particularly unhelpful at this moment in Afghanistan’s history for the Taliban to ramp up violence,” McKenzie, head of US Central Command, told reporters travelling with him.
McKenzie said for the peace process to move forward, “all parties should be committed to an eventual political settlement” which, in turn, should result in reduced violence.
“If we can’t get that going in, then it is difficult to see the parties are going to be able to carry out the terms of the agreement, whatever they might or might not be,” McKenzie said.
Under the draft accord, thousands of U.S. troops would be withdrawn over the coming months in exchange for guarantees Afghanistan would not be used as a base for militant attacks on the United States and its allies.
However, a full peace agreement to end more than 18 years of war would depend on subsequent “intra Afghan” talks. The Taliban have rejected calls for a ceasefire and instead stepped up operations across the country.
Trump hints at some announcement at ‘Howdy Modi!’ event in Houston
US President Donald Trump has hinted that there “could be” some announcement by him at the mega “Howdy Modi!” event in Houston on Sunday, where he would join Prime Minister Narendra Modi in addressing the 50,000-strong Indian diaspora.
The White House on Monday announced that Trump would join Modi at the mega Houston rally on September 22 as a “special gesture” by the US President to underscore the special bond between the two countries.It is for the first time that Trump and Modi would share a stage together. The event is the third meeting between the two leaders in three months, after the G-20 summit in Japan in June and the G-7 summit in France last month.
“Could be. I have a very good relationship with Prime Minister Modi,” Trump told reporters on Wednesday aboard Air Force One on his way back from California to Washington DC. He did not elaborate.He was responding to a question if there would be any announcement when he goes to Houston for the rally with the Indian leader.
According to media reports, officials of the two countries are trying to finalise a trade deal before Modi and Trump meet in Houston.
Trade tensions between India and the US have been rising with Trump complaining that tariffs imposed by New Delhi on American products were “no longer acceptable”.
The US in June terminated India’s designation as beneficiary developing country under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) programme.
India imposed retaliatory tariffs on 28 US products, including almonds and apples from June 5, after the Trump administration revoked its preferential trade privileges.
Reacting to a record number of 50,000 Indian-Americans registering for the event, Trump said the crowd for the event had now become bigger after it was announced that he would be going there.
“He (Modi) has got a big crowd coming and I guess the crowd just got a lot bigger because they just announced–he asked, would I go, and I will go,” Trump said.
After the Houston event, Trump would travel to Ohio for an event with the visiting Australian Prime Minister.
“Then we’re stopping in Ohio on the way back and then I guess we do the United Nations the following week,” the US President said.
Trump also said that he had a great relationship with both India and Pakistan.
Modi will be visiting the US from September 21-27 for the annual session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). It is his first US trip after winning a second term as prime minister in May.
The two leaders are again scheduled to meet later in the week in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) session.
Kashmir may not be a major topic during PM Modi-Xi Jinping summit next month: China
China on Tuesday said the Kashmir issue may not be a “major topic” of discussion during the planned 2nd informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping, notwithstanding the high voltage campaign by its close ally Pakistan over India revoking the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.
Tension between India and Pakistan escalated after New Delhi revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special status on August 5. Reacting to India’s move on Kashmir, Pakistan downgraded diplomatic ties with New Delhi and expelled the Indian High Commissioner.
A senior Chinese official said it should be left to Modi and Xi on the issues they would like to discuss.
“As for Kashmir will be on the agenda, I’m not sure because this is kind of informal summit and leaders’ meeting I think better we need to give the leaders much time to discuss whatever they would like to discuss,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told a media briefing here.
“For this kind of informal summit, I think it is better to leave the leaders much time to discuss whatever they would like to discuss,” she said.
Hua said Kashmir may not be a major topic of discuss between the two leaders. “I think for those things like Kashmir, I don’t think it will be a major topic occupying the talks, that is my understanding,” she said.
“But for the leaders, they will be free to talk about whatever they like,” Hua said, responding to a question.
China, the all-weather ally of Pakistan, already tried to take the Kashmir issue to the UN Security Council last month. But a closed-door meeting of the UNSC, in a snub to both Beijing and Islamabad, ended without any outcome or statement.
European Parliament set to discuss Kashmir
Brussels, Sep 17: The European Parliament is expected to hold discussions on the Kashmir issue on Tuesday, the media reported.
After India scrapped its Constitution”s Articles 370 and 35A, which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir, and divided the state into two union territories, Islamabad has been crying foul over New Delhi”s move and continuously trying to highlight the issue on a global level.
However, Pakistan has failed to get the international community to censure India.
The report said that in early September, the European Parliament “had debated an urgent resolution for the horrible conditions, including human rights violations, in Indian-occupied Kashmir”.
The European Union”s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, delivered a detailed policy statement on the Kashmir situation on September 17, it said. (IANS)